Published on September 18th, 2012 | by Stuart Wood16
Is XFCE The Future Desktop Of Choice?
Whether your Linux machine is a workhorse for day-to-day tasks, or a test installation on a virtual machine to play around with, you have probably used GNOME at some point. I you haven’t, then KDE or XFCE are close runners up. Until recent releases Canonical used GNOME as it’s default desktop environment for their vanilla Ubuntu builds. That changed when they brought Unity to the table, and all the customisable goodness you had with GNOME had been replaced with a rigid, MacOS-like affair.
Sure, GNOME isn’t dead. In fact it’s very much alive and has recently had a facelift in their latest offering, GNOME3. Don’t think that you have all that customisation potential back though, as whilst GNOME3 is beautiful (in my opinion), you’re stuck with the way it looks.
So what are your alternatives? You could go for the runner-up – KDE. It seems however, that KDE isn’t as lightweight as you would expect. If you have a powerful machine you probably won’t feel the pinch. Let’s remember for a second that for a lot of people, a Linux install is a new lease of life for aging hardware and low powered machines. There’s nothing like a bloated desktop environment to impede your now speedy old laptop.
Both desktop environments have their ups and downs, and each side will have their fans. Personally I was on the GNOME side, mostly because that’s what came with Ubuntu and I stuck with it. This would be the same for a lot of novice Linux users, however with Unity taking centre stage with vanilla Ubuntu, GNOME is at risk of losing it’s place to
XFCE – The New Contender
So we’ve seen the Coke and Pepsi of desktop environments, how about the lesser-known Virgin Cola? XFCE is by no means a new desktop, it’s been around for years, and has been available for Ubuntu users in the form of Xubuntu. XFCE is designed to be a lightweight environment, and is commonly suggested by enthusiasts when the imminent “Ubuntu is slow, how can I make it faster?” appears around various community forums.
I’ll have to admit, I asked a similar question after installing GNOME3 on my netbook, and sure enough, installing XFCE was one of the first suggestions. I had my doubts when offered this suggestion. I am a sucker for visuals, and last time I had checked, XFCE was butt-ugly in it’s default form. I’m pleased to report however, that it seems Virgin Cola has a new recipe. Those who have been using XFCE since this update will be thinking this is old news of course, but I believe that this is worth mentioning to the uninformed. The visuals have come a long way, and I believe that they are on par with ‘classic’ GNOME. The window borders have been simplified and given a sleek look, and the default icon set has been revamped since I last visited. More importantly, performance doesn’t appear to have suffered from this facelift, my netbook is pretty zippy compared to the previous mess with Unity and GNOME3, which I can only liken to a quadriplegic trying to crawl… in sand.
I was also surprised to hear that official Ubuntu fork Ubuntu Studio has defaulted to the XFCE environment. It makes sense really, as Ubuntu Studio is designed to be stripped out and optimised for media production (it even has a lower latency kernel, so this is a step in the right direction).
Overall I’m pretty pleased with my new desktop, and I can only hope that it continues to mature in the way that it seems to be doing now, without the mid-life crisis that GNOME seems to be going under currently.